In the time period between about 1400 and 1650 the history of Western European civilization has changed significantly. In that relatively short period European society jumped from one stage into another, from medieval supernaturalism to the more modern pre-scientific world.
I would say it always starts in human minds. When necessity of social, economic, technological, cultural, and religious changes appears, it is only the matter of time before it becomes obvious for majority of people. Printing press made possible the fast delivery of information to the large groups of people. It is helped to develop a critical attitude among ordinary people which cause general democratization and comprehension of dignity as an individual.
With the entire printing material available through the Universities, libraries, propaganda leaflet est. the learning process became more private and more distant from the usual surroundings and, at the same time, more deep into the consciousness of individual. The average person becomes more intellectual which gives a great basis for different schools of thought like Humanism philosophy itself. Humanism in the best possible way suits the needs and interests of the new society broken from feudal system.
Not surprisingly artists are first to sense and react at any needs and changes in society. They usually people with great deal of spiritual sensibility. Since Humanism focuses on general emancipation of the individual the Renaissance artists were interested in showing reality and accuracy, emphasizing the human aspects, the look of real people with human proportions and expressions.
The Protestant Reformation is a unique historical event that was started by a single individual – German monk Martin Luther. Needless to say that Luther was an intellectual individual full of ideas about man and God relationship without Churches’ interference. He believed that Salvation could only take a place between individual and God directly, so he wrote 95 revolutionary theses attacking Catholic Church in a form of academic discussion. It would not be possible without the printing press at all. He won the sympathy of big part of the world and started ‘storm of violence’ by printing and spreading his thoughts through printed propaganda pamphlets.
If one has to wonder what do the printing press, Humanism, the Renaissance, and the Protestant Reformation have in common the main conception would be the words Evolution and Revolution. At that point, the invention of first printing machine helped to achieve new ‘milestone’ in history.